Our resident wine expert, Gurjit Singh BARRY, Sommelier & Wine Educator is our go-to when it comes to all things wine. When chatting (over a glass of wine of course), he began to share some of his knowledge when it comes to some common misconceptions people have about wine! We thought it was pretty interesting and decided to share his insights (number 4 is my favourite!)
5 common myths about wine
by Gurjit Signh BARRY
Hello and welcome to the wine myth-busting session. We all love talking about wine and of course drinking it. Wine, a social lubricant has kept our society sane & civilized for generations. Not so long ago an interesting survey was done as to what it means to be French. The top results that made someone French were indeed that you are a citizen of France, understand the French values, speak the language, and most importantly that you appreciate wine. To French, being French means to fight for its country and its wine. History tells us that wars have been fought for wine and stopped for the same reason. One particular incident which comes to my mind was when the French local council decided to lay the tracks for TGV – high-speed train in France which was supposed to pass the vineyards of a famous French châteaux in Vouvray. The railway would have brought prosperity and increased job opportunities for the locals. To authorities’ dismay, the vignerons including the mayor stood up in arms with the local authorities leading to tensions. The authorities were dismayed why the farmers were opposing the decision. Until one fine day that the mayor decided to intervene, and the team of top railway officials visited the châteaux. The officials asked to give them one reason why the railway track should not be laid as planned. The Mayor of that time, Gaston Huet disappeared in his cellar and after some time brought a bottle of his aged Chenin Blanc and quietly poured a glass each to the officials. The officials of course were puzzled by the hospitality. However, after having one sip, tears rolled out from the eyes of the officials. Rest as they say is history. The vibrations from the passing rail would have shaken and disturbed the wine resting in the cellars affecting the quality of the wine.
The above excerpt from history has been skilfully documented by Don and Petie Kladstrup book, Wine and War. Wine has for the most part of the history been considered a drink of gods aka classes, whereas beer has been associated with the masses. It is this mysticism and romance which sometimes leads the consumer to believe in some myths about wine.
Without further ado, here’s my list of top 5 myths that I would like to talk about today:
1. Wine has to be costly to be good
At the outset, there is nothing as good wine and bad wine. All the wines are good, but some are better. There indeed is a big connection when I say, “you get what you pay for”. However, I assure you that when it comes to wine, “the wine does not have to be costly to be good”.
This brings me to another sub-question that I get asked many times, “what is a good wine”. I always reply, “the one in your hands right now”. For the wine to be good is a mélange of factors, namely the food you are eating, the mood you are in, the company and most importantly who’s paying. Jokes apart, you may agree with me that sometimes the easiest going wines taste divine in the company of our loved ones.
On the contrary, the top châteaux red may taste banal if you are in a stressful situation. Such as wife going through your messages on the phone.
2. The older the wine, the better it is
This used to be true in the case of Scotch whisky, however, even the Scots are turning away from the mention of age on the Whisky. This topic of matter of age remains to be discussed on some other day. Today we stick to wine….
As I was saying, in terms of wine, the younger-the better holds true, well most of the time. Hang-on, but what about the older vintage wine which has turned into a multi-billion dollar industry. I have always believed that aging wine is a rich man sport. It’s so lucrative that there is even an exchange (much like stock) for wine where you can buy, sell and invest in fine wine https://www.altiwineexchange.com/indexes. Before you get swayed by all the cool money to be made by investing in the wine exchange while sitting in the comfort of your living room, please note that there are more worthy people in need of your money such as me. I am happy to share the bank account details of my favourite charity and you even get the donation receipt for tax purposes as well.
Now, on a more serious note wine does evolve with age, not always for the better. It is note worthy that 99% of the wine that is produced in the world right now, is supposed to be drunk within 3-5 years of its production. If you are into fine wine and aging wine then am happy to share my two-bit of advice and that is investing in a wine fridge. Some quick ABC for wine buying i.e. you don’t drink a young Amarone, Barolo or a Chianti. Likewise, you wouldn’t be drinking a Sauvignon Blanc vintage 2000 today. Why you know the answer. Some wines are made to be drunk young while others not before your toddler graduates from the college. Unfortunately, for a common Jo, it does get a tad difficult to know how long to keep the wine before it gets ready to be consumed.
Some quick mind-notes:
- Most (read 99%) of wine is ready to be consumed when it is launched in the market.
- Reds last longer than whites
- Keep the wine away from direct sunlight and away from vibrations. Under the bed and in the kitchen cupboard is not the right spot nor is you daddy’s garage. Wine fridge recommended.
- Don’t expect a $10 bottle of wine to last for 5-6 years. Drink it today or invite me and I’ll help you finish it.
- If buying for cellaring always buy in 6 case packing. Keep a diary of what it tasted like and date it with future instructions. So, when you come back to it in a few months or years time you know what happened and how it tasted last time. It’s more fun that ways documenting your taste and see your palate as also the wine evolve.
3. Red wine with red meat and white wine with white meat
I love this one.
This is true and false at the same time and let me explain to you how. I’ll start with how it stands true first. Imagine drinking a chilled oaked Toi Toi Chardonnay with your favourite Mushroom Risotto served with a little drizzle of truffle oil…mmmm heaven isn’t it. The nuttiness of the truffle oil marries so well with the nuttiness of the wine. As also, the refreshing acidity cuts through the creaminess of the risotto and leaves our palate fresh each time we sip, ready for the next spoonful of hot Risotto.
Likewise, we cannot imagine my favourite New Zealand Lamb chops served + mint sauce served without the Toi Toi Merlot. The vanilla, cedarwood, pepper and dark fruit notes of our award-winning Hawkes Bay Merlot pairs so well with the Lamb chops.
Done, now how it is false.
Chicken, let me ask you, do we classify chicken as white or red meat? White, isn’t it. I want you to visualize this dish in your head as I explain. Chicken breast, slice it then stuff the breast with prunes, wrap it in Prosciutto ham and grill it. Serve it along with mashed potatoes with grated nutmeg on top and garden-fresh vegetables. The wine that I would like to pair is the same as above, i.e. Toi Toi Merlot. This is so that we keep the same point of reference. The juicy plums and prunes of this exquisite Merlot pair so well with the prunes stuff chicken breast. The saltiness of the prosciutto ham lends flavor and juiciness to the dish handling the tannins so well.
Hang on a minute, but chicken is white meat and we just paired a red wine with white meat. So, it does work well. Don’t just trust me, buy a Toi Toi Merlot today and try this pairing. Remember to tag us #ToiToiwines to share how the pairing worked for you.
On the contrast, we cannot imagine drinking an oaky, bold Shiraz with pan-fried sea bass. The fish will simply melt in the mouth and before you have a chance to say olala, the tannins in the wine will make the fish taste metallic.
This brings us to the understanding that we drink red wine with red meat as the tannins in the wine help us chew the meat better. So, there is a technical reason why you pair red wine with red meat and vice-versa.
All said, if you like drinking a refreshing Sauvignon with your T-steak then you are absolutely right in doing so. No one including me can dictate what pairing works well for you. If you think it does then yes it is right.
4. Red wine is consumed at room temperature
This one dates back to those days when there was no central heating and the average temperature of a European home was but 18 degrees Celsius. Fast forward to today, the average temperature of our homes can rise up to 45 degrees Celsius in some parts of the world. I recommend keeping your red wine in the fridge 30 minutes before service. You will notice your wine tastes much better when served at the right temperature. To do a quick check of the temperature of the red wine bottle it should feel cool, not cold when touched.
5. Never, ever put ice in your wine, it’s sacrilege
The purists will label your act of putting ice in wine as blasphemous. Ice is for cold drinks whereas wine should not be spoiled with ice. Before you raise your eyebrows, I invite you to add two cubes of ice in your red or white wine and see it evolve as you sip your glass. There is nothing more satisfying than a chilled glass of white of a hot summer day. If your wine is not at the right temperature, do feel free to add a few rocks of ice. Let me repeat myself that no-one should dictate how you like your drink. Go ahead even add a drop of soda or lemonade in your glass of white wine or rosé, I say. This will turn your drink into a spritzer and we all know it tastes refreshing. For reds, try adding a dash of chilled coke and enjoy.
That was a rather long blabber. However, as the guardian of good times and the saviour of your palate + pocket, I am here to ensure that you enjoy, spread the joy and never tolerate snobbery. Cheers!